This year, Green America’s chocolate scorecard got a little revamp: it now explores what are companies doing beyond certifying the cocoa they are purchasing. Although fair trade and environmental certifications are helpful tools for consumers and for companies, on their own, they’re not enough to address the systemic reasons for farmer poverty and child labor.
As large chocolate companies continue to explore and refine how they can go beyond certification to improve the lives of farmers, fair alternative chocolate companies have been placing farmers front and center of their business models for years.
All of Alter Eco’s products are made with ingredients sourced directly from small-scale farms it partners with. In addition to having Fair Trade Certified cocoa and paying farmer co-ops a premium for their cocoa, Alter Eco also provides targeted assistance to its cocoa farmers. This assistance addresses issues that farmers and their co-ops may face, such as food assistance, gender equality, and biodiversity.
Like many other companies on this list, Divine Chocolate has a direct relationship with the cocoa co-op it sources from, Kuapa Kokoo. But Divine and Kuapa Kokoo don’t just have a direct relationship – Kuapa Kokoo owns 40% of Divine Chocolate. Kuapa Kokoo farmers also have seats on Divine’s Board of Directors. Farmer representation is key to improving farmer livelihood, and Divine’s business model allows Kuapa Kokoo, which has over 80,000 farmer members, to have a voice in key business decisions.
Endangered Species is the first American-made chocolate to use fully traceable cocoa sourced from West Africa. This means that, in addition to paying higher prices for cocoa and paying a premium that can be invested in community projects, Endangered Species can track their beans to the very farms they source from. This increased transparency is welcome, as the cocoa supply chain in West Africa can be long and opaque.
Equal Exchange is one of the pioneers of the fair trade chocolate movement, and to this day is so dedicated to worker co-ops that the company itself is worker owned too. Equal Exchange continues to adhere to the fair trade movement in the strictest sense, and has direct relationships with over 40 small farming co-ops.
Theo has direct relationships with cocoa cooperatives in Peru and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It negotiates prices with farmer co-ops directly, provides training on good agricultural practices, and is transparent with farmers about pricing and payments. Theo also works with the different cocoa communities it sources from to develop meaningful projects tailored to their needs.
This is, of course, not a complete list of alternative chocolate companies that are helping farmers on the ground – we are at a time where ethical chocolate alternatives are gaining larger footholds in the marketplace. Share with us some of your favorite chocolate companies and what they’re doing to help farmers!